4A high school football preview: Corner Canyon at East

Chargers face daunting task, trying to stop Leopards' top-flight offense

Published: Thursday, Nov. 7 2013 9:15 a.m. MST

East's Ula Tolutau runs over Jordan's Cooper Clark during prep football in Salt Lake County Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — If the Corner Canyon Chargers are going to have a chance against top-ranked East, they have to find a way to slow the Leopards’ prolific offense.

Charger head coach Don Eck said his expectations are pretty simple for Friday’s game.

“East is a pretty dominant team,” he said. “They’re a three-headed monster on offense. All three of those guys … are tough to stop. My expectations are that we will play hard and compete.”

The three guys Eck referred to are quarterback Isaac Valles, running back Preston Curtis and fullback Ula Tolutau.

“(Curtis) might be the fastest guy in the state,” he said. “(Tolutau) might be the biggest fullback and the quarterback can hurt you with his arm or his feet. And then there is the tight end.” That would be senior Joe Tukuafu, who has 600 yards receiving to lead East in receptions and eight touchdowns.

The unranked, first-year program is not, however, intimidated in the slightest by the powerhouse.

“Our coaches have a good plan,” Eck said. “We’ve just got to play hard.”

East coach Brandon Matich said the Chargers will be a formidable second-round foe.

“They are very athletic,” Matich said. “They have some really fast, really athletic guys. They run an aggressive blitzing scheme on defense without an entire identity.” And then Matich reels off the defenses he’s seen from the Chargers.

“They’re going to give you something multiple, active, moving around,” he said. “Something that’s going to cause you problems.”

Eck said his coaches are practicing a few defensive looks that they haven’t even used this season. That defense is led by linebacker Gaige Kartchner, who has seven sacks and 54 tackles on the season.

Matich said the Chargers have plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball, starting with their quarterback Michael Ebeling. His favorite target is junior wide receiver Garrett Michaeli.

“The quarterback can make plays with both his feet and his arm, and his receiver (Michaeli) catches everything for them. He runs around the picket, and his kids hold their routes.”

Eck said Kartchner and Ebeling have provided leadership to the young program.

“(Kartchner) is an absolute terror for opposing offenses,” Eck said. “We’re a different ball club without those two guys.”

Eck knows the Charger defense will have to lead the way if they hope to upset the Leopards.

“We’re hoping we can slow them down and make this a good ball game,” said Eck, who returns to high school coaching after three decades in the college coaching ranks.

The Chargers are tougher than a lot of first-year teams, in large part because the school had nearly all of the Alta Little League players who live in Draper choose the new school when it opened this fall.

“About 80 percent of this team came from Alta, and they had the best sophomore team in the state,” Eck said. “So I knew we had some good guys to work with.”

Eck said returning to high school coaching was made easier because he hired very experienced prep assistant coaches.